HD Radio Makes “Progress,” But Analog Still Rules

Earlier this summer Radio World published one of its occasional special “e-books,” this one called “HD Radio From the Ground Up” (form-filling required to download). Like most industry trade publications, it’s a celebratory document that seeks to paint the U.S. digital broadcast system in the best possible light.

Kicking things off is a tech-centric column from Scott Fybush in which he talks with various enginerring principals about the efficiency of today’s FM-HD Radio systems. Unlike the first few generations of the tech, which involved wildly inefficient combination of the analog and digital signals, improvements to the HD system now make for a better marriage. In HD’s early years, more than 30 percent of the power that went into the analog/digital combination process was lost as waste heat; now that number is down to something like 10 percent. Read More

HD Radio: New Frontier in Norway?

Fresh off the heels of the NAB Radio Show came news that an FM broadcaster in Norway is testing the all-digital FM-HD Radio system. According to Radio World, the tests have been conducted under the auspices of the Norweigan Local Radio Association, the industry’s longest-running trade association.

Recently, two large commercial broadcasters split off from the NLRA and have created their own lobbying arm, advocating for the eventual switch-off of FM broadcasting in Norway (in favor of DAB+). The NLRA has long promoted allowing broadcasters to retain their legacy FM infrastructure; is this affair with HD Radio a strategic maneuver to convince Norwegian regulators to drop the switchoff? Read More

Canada Considers Adopting HD Radio

iBiquity Digital Corporation’s recent claim that HD Radio is on the way to becoming the North American digital radio standard actually has some merit. More than enough, in fact, that it’s surprising that the company didn’t announce how far along things are in Canada: as part of a wide-ranging proceeding on rules revisions to the radio sector, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is now soliciting formal comment on the notion of adopting HD Radio.

In 2006, the CRTC announced that it was prepared to reconsider its adoption of the Eureka 147 DAB standard as Canada’s digital radio platform. Since then, broadcasters have abandoned it and the CRTC is phasing out DAB licenses.

In 2012, iBiquity made approaches to several broadcasters in Canada about becoming test-beds for HD technology. Three stations in the Toronto area accepted the call. CING-FM, an adult-contemporary station owned by Corus Entertainment—Canada’s fourth-largest commercial broadcaster—has been the primary platform for technical tests, including datacasting experiments. The other two stations, CFMS-FM and CJSA-FM, are classified as "ethnic" stations, which basically means the majority of their programming isn’t in English. Canadian Multicultural Radio, the owner of CJSA, announced just last week that it will soon roll out FM-HD multichannel programming in Tamil, Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi. Read More

HD Radio Roundup

Lots has been happening since I started formally dissertating on the debacle that is HD Radio. Below is a collection of intriguing snippets and informed prognostication:

1. HD Radio Reception. Mediageek Paul Riismandel recently posted two articles on Radio Survivor dealing with real-world HD reception in a major market (in his case, Chicago), using a bottom-end (~$80) HD receiver. The results are not impressive. On FM, Paul sez,

I find that the technology of cramming a digital signal in next to analog one has too many compromises to be successful. The bandwidth for the HD channels is not enough to offer significantly better fidelity for the primary HD channel, and the leftover bandwidth available for HD2 and HD3 provides sound quality that does not surpass what is available online or on satellite radio. Importantly, tuning in a clear HD signal can be a very finicky process that can try one’s patience.

AM-HD engenders even less enthusiasm (love the graphic, BTW): “I consider HD Radio on AM to be mostly useless and not worth the effort. It’s especially not worth the loud digital hash noise I receive on my analog-only radios on the frequencies adjacent to the HD stations. It’s like a line of digital litter strewn across the AM radio highway.” Read More

Whoa, Canada: DAB Effectively Dead?

Grant Goddard notes the publication of a report by Industry Canada (our northern neighbors’ version of the FCC) on the state of the country’s digital audio broadcasting transition. Short answer: do-over time!

In the report, the Canadian government basically admits that its DAB transition has stalled (at just 76 stations), and is now in reverse (digital stations are going dark). The report cites many reasons for its failure: large up-front capital investment; expensive receivers leading to little audience; and, most importantly, DAB was designed as a technical solution to a content problem. Read More